BBC NEWS Americas Africa Europe Middle East South Asia Asia Pacific Russian Polish Albanian Greek Czech Ukrainian Serbian Turkish Romanian
BBCi NEWS   SPORT   WEATHER   WORLD SERVICE   A-Z INDEX     

BBC News World Edition
 You are in: Europe  
News Front Page
Africa
Americas
Asia-Pacific
Europe
Middle East
South Asia
UK
Business
Entertainment
Science/Nature
Technology
Health
-------------
Talking Point
-------------
Country Profiles
In Depth
-------------
Programmes
-------------
BBC Sport
BBC Weather
SERVICES
-------------
LANGUAGES
EDITIONS
Monday, 17 June, 2002, 01:22 GMT 02:22 UK
Analysis: French right triumphs
President Jacques Chirac
Chirac's call to end "cohabitation" has worked

It has played out perfectly for President Jacques Chirac, Prime Minister Jean-Pierre Raffarin and their newly created Union for the Presidential Majority (UMP).

Right on cue, the electorate has overturned the left-wing majority in the National Assembly and ensured that the supporters of the president have a clear five-year run in which to modernise the country.

As Socialist Party secretary Francois Hollande ruefully observed, it was all part of the "mechanical chain of events" that followed Mr Chirac's re-election last month and the electorate's distaste for another round of "cohabitation".

Jean-Pierre Raffarin
Jean-Pierre Raffarin brought a non-Parisian perspective
Indeed one lesson of the last two months of constant electioneering is the massive mistake the left made last year when it pushed for - and won - the reversal of the electoral calendar, putting the parliamentary poll after the presidential elections.

Because it made almost inevitable the centre-right's triumph Sunday.

As the electorate has shown in every previous National Assembly election that followed immediately after a presidential race - in 1981, for example, and 1988 - it prefers to hand over the powers the president wants rather than hold them back.

The "logic of the Fifth Republic institutions", as pundits call it, has indeed reasserted itself. The president is once again all powerful, and the government will do his bidding.

Opposition licks wounds

The Socialists have received a drubbing, with the defeat of the powerful Martine Aubry - architect of the key reform of the last five years, the 35-hour week - in her Lille constituency a symbolic humiliation.


The rejection of the left must be seen in the European context, which is witnessing a clear shift to the right after victories in Denmark, the Netherlands, Portugal and Ireland

But they have not been eliminated from the electoral map as they were in 1993, and they will live to put up a spirited opposition.

They will comfort themselves with the memory that every parliamentary election since 1981 has ended in a change of majority, and concentrate on 2007.

Less happy are their erstwhile coalition partners the Communists, the Greens and former interior minister Jean-Pierre Chevenement's formation, the Republican Pole.

The Greens are humbled with probably just two seats - down from seven - and while the Communists have just managed to keep the 20-odd deputies necessary for a parliamentary bloc, their president Robert Hue was ousted from his seat north of Paris.

The man ridiculed by the far left as the "garden gnome" has seen the once-mighty Communists plummet to greater depths than they can possibly have imagined, and he must be on his way out.

Mr Chevenement - the eternal maverick who fancied himself as president just a few weeks ago - also lost his seat.

The rejection of the left must be seen in the European context, which is witnessing a clear shift to the right after victories in Denmark, the Netherlands, Portugal and Ireland.

Tests ahead

The first-round presidential triumph of far-right leader Jean-Marie Le Pen has also shown that growing concerns about crime and immigration cannot be left for populists to exploit.

So Mr Raffarin and his team have a clear task ahead - to fulfil their pre-election promises to fight crime, cut back state bureaucracy and free up the economy.

The 53-year-old senator from Poitou conducted an impeccable four-week campaign, coming across with just the right mix of modesty and determination to convince France that he means to act - and listen.

He will continue to enjoy a honeymoon with the electorate as he unveils new initiatives on crime and the economy, and as France enters its long summer break, when no-one take politics too seriously.

But the test will come - and probably not much later than this autumn, when his much-vaunted promises to reform and modernise are confronted with some of France's myriad entrenched social interests.


Key stories

Background

Profiles

TALKING POINT
See also:

16 Jun 02 | Europe
16 Jun 02 | Europe
16 Jun 02 | Europe
04 Jun 02 | Europe
Internet links:


The BBC is not responsible for the content of external internet sites

Links to more Europe stories are at the foot of the page.


E-mail this story to a friend

Links to more Europe stories

© BBC ^^ Back to top

News Front Page | Africa | Americas | Asia-Pacific | Europe | Middle East |
South Asia | UK | Business | Entertainment | Science/Nature |
Technology | Health | Talking Point | Country Profiles | In Depth |
Programmes